Saturday, May 24, 2014

Just Another Ride up the Mountain Road.

Depending on the day, or time of the day, right now, it could be one heck of a beautiful time to go up into the Abajo Mountains; or a thunderstorm is moving in.  I laugh my butt off when someone from out of town asks, "Is it always like this?"  "Like what?", I ask.  "The weather?", they response is typically, "Yes, we have weather here every day."  Seriously, I am absolutely clueless as to what they are expecting; the weather is the weather, it does what it wants, when it wants to....we simple humans have no control no matter what science fiction movies depict.  So, there's my vent for today...

Anyway, one of the great advantages of living in Monticello is being able to go up into the mountains whenever we want to; whether to go camping, hiking, fishing, off road driving, or just that simple drive up the paved road, maybe down the other side, or back the way you started out, then home again.  So it was the beginning of this week, before the thunderstorms began moving in; the sky was clear blue with a slight breeze blowing through.  Jenna was my companion once again; she loves when mommy drives the SUV into a forest clearing and she can run, run, run to her heart's delight.  I figured that this would be a good time to try and find those hidden Indian sites.

Full tank of gas, bottled water and snacks stowed in the vehicle, up the mountain road we headed.  Starting point is the Welcome Center on 200 South and Main Street; follow 200 South as it curves to the left and it gets renamed Abajo Drive.  Before you head on up, there's an informational board with mileage indications; the road changes name again to San Juan County Road 101 (CR 101).  The mileage markings I give in this posting are based on the starting point I just gave you.

At 3.3 miles, the Pipeline Trail (OHV trail) is to the left, but there is a dirt trail to the right also; it's only 1/10th of a mile before you emerge into a clearing.  There are a few campfire rings in the area, but ATV trails leading out also.  Parking, Jenna went off running, but I decided on a leisurely hike.  There are great viewpoints of the mountains and of Monticello down below.  Now as to the piles of rubble I found; some of the piles had unusual shaping to them.  One pile started out oval, but ended in a point; the point was towards another pile of rubble within the shrubbery.  Then there was a clearing where the stones were sticking out of the ground in a circular fashion with other stones making up other shapes nearby.  Could this be one of the hidden sites?

Here's a hint for ATVers and hikers, if you see a dirt road and there is no "private property" or "no trespassing" sign, it is pretty much open for public usage.  It's the same for campsites, so long as there is a rock fire ring on a site, it's yours!

At mile 4.3 there is another dirt trail that leads off into the Aspen trees; campsites are 5/10ths of a mile in.  This is a beautiful area for hiking or camping in; the sunlight through the Aspens gives a surreal feeling.  The stones used to make a fire pit were unusual as they seemed to be rounded off at the edges.  Were hidden Indian ruins ruined to create this fire pit, and the other fire rings in the area?

Colorado Aspen Trees

Sneezeweed (Aster family)
At 4.5 miles is another dirt trail that leads to primitive water, no electric, no potties.  The nearest toilet is at a rest area at 5.1 miles, or at Monticello Lake which is at the 7.8 mile mark.

Mile mark 5.9 is OHV trail 5128 while at 6.7 there are two trails, 5116 and 5421; they are wide looking, so probably 4-wheel drive friendly, not just for ATVs.

View at mile mark 6.7
There is a road that parallels the paved road at Monticello Lake; CR 103/FR  0105 and it goes to the junction of CR 165 and Spring Creek Road (FR  0105 continues and full of free campsites).  I traveled CR 165, but it dead ends at a road maintenance site; however, there are two OHV trails off of it, 5418 and 5420.  Back to the junction, you can get a viewing of the Indian Creek Valley in the far distance.

It was getting on lunchtime, so instead of snacking, we headed on back home, so I could do some experimental cooking; I do have that food blog to maintain also.

Having a good time in this area is not complicated; just pick a direction and have fun!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moab's Uranium King in San Juan County, and Macomb Arch.

The former home of Moab's Uranium King, Charlie Steen, is now a restaurant called the Sunset Grill.  While he may have put Moab on the map, it's San Juan County he should have been thanking for his big score.  His mine, Mi Vida, is located in the Big Indian Wash - Lisbon Valley area, but like many uranium mines nowadays, is no longer in operation.  So, what does San Juan County have to show for all the money made on that mine?  A road named after Charlie...Steens (or Steen depending on the map) Road (CR 114/2447) which is also an OHV (off highway vehicle) road, staging area for Hook and Ladder, and location of two formations: Red Rock and Casa Colorado Rock.  I better post the map I fixed up, so you can follow along as I write up sites I've found.

Steens Road is 22.7 miles from the the intersection of Main and Center Streets in Monticello, heading north on Route 191; after you go down a small dip in the road and cross over an arroyo, you'll see a sign and the road to your right.  To the left though is another road which is Old Highway 191 and can also handle ATVs and 4-wheel drive vehicles; it takes you all the way up to Wilson Arch on Route 191.

The staging area for Hook and Ladder is 1.2 miles up Steens Road; at the informational board is a box which holds free maps.  Sometimes the box is empty and the local welcome center might not have any either; go to the SPEAR (San Juan Public Entry & Access Rights) site at: , click on Maps ( , choose the route(s) you want and print it(them) out.

Dwarf Evening Primrose scattered throughout the staging area.

At 2.5 miles you reach Red Rock; this formation can be seen from Lisbon Valley Road and looks like a castle or gothic mansion.  From Steens Road, it looks like a sleeping stegosaurus from one angle or an elephant's head between its front feet from another angle.  Stop though and take in the scenery of the road you just traveled up; isn't that beautiful?

Casa Colorado Rock is at the 3.7 mile mark; a formation of pillars often sort out by climbers.  It is part of the formation, again seen from Lisbon Valley Road which was simply named "Cave Rocks" by William Henry Jackson.  There is a large amphitheatre upwards from Steens Road; Roy and I enjoy hiking up there, having our picnic lunch and just looking out at the scenery.

At mile mark 5.1, the road splits off; straight ahead CR 114 continues down into a canyon and beyond; it becomes very rough riding and is best for ATVs or specialized 4-wheel drive vehicles. There are several other trails that lead to closed off areas due to poisonous gas from the pipelines throughout.

Going right, the road now becomes CR 111/2447 aka Big Indian Spur which leads to the Lisbon Valley Gas Plant; a right onto Rankine Road will bring you to Lisbon Valley Road in 1.6 miles.  You then have to decide to either go left to explore L.V. Road or go right back to Route 191; but before you do that, stop on Rankine Road at 4/10ths of a mile from the plant and explore the riverbed.

Canaigre Dock (Buckwheat family) grows throughout the riverbed

So there's Steens Road for you; Hook and Ladder I hope to explore at another time, but wait, this adventure tale is not over yet.  Doing my research about Steens Road, I saw mention of "Macomb Arch" and two posted photos of it; only problem, no substantial information about it.  Online map sites listed it as "Name Unrecognized", or a little ballon vaguely positioned between East Canyon Road (CR 105) and Lisbon Valley Road.  I couldn't even find out why it was named as such online or in any of my San Juan County books; probably some rancher named Macomb who lived or still lives out there is my best guess.

Anyway, heading back south on Route 191, I made the turn onto East Canyon Road (CR 105) to see if I could find this arch; a photocopy along to help me recognize the landscape.  At mile mark 2.7, a shaft of sunlight going through the arch helped me find the location; unfortunately, a road at mile mark 4.7 ends at a closed gate, so that wasn't getting me out there.  These photos are the best I could do with my zoom lens, until I can finally find the correct road out to it.  It looks to be part of Deer Neck Mesa, so I've got a pretty good idea of two possible ways.

Macomb Arch

Deer Neck Mesa

 Just for a lark, I drove up Peters Wash Road (CR 108) from East Canyon Road (on mile mark 1.8) up and over to White Rock and down to Lisbon Valley Road.  At a post and wire fence that you can go through, just remember to close it again once you pass through, there is a corral and this old windmill. 
...and that's that for this write up.
Mary Cokenour


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Recapture Reservoir and North.

When Roy and I go out exploring, most of the time it is a matter of, "Hey, here's a road, lets see where it goes!"; and so it was for a road above Recapture Reservoir. Well, the road is just before you cross the bridge over Recapture if you're traveling south, and on the right hand side; traveling north from Blanding, it's just after Recapture and on the left. It's also another one of those "no road sign" roads, but it's known as Radio Hill Road North; that is until you go onto the gravel road to the left and down to the reservoir. If you continue on the road past Recapture, then it becomes San Juan County Road 264 aka Bulldog Road; oh, but wait, there's more; that little dirt trail leading off to the right is the ATV trail for Bulldog Canyon. Confused time!


Recapture Reservoir is not as glorious as it usually is; Blanding has been experiencing drought conditions, so the water level is low.  While that affords more camping area around the man made lake, it does inhibit boat usage somewhat.   Even though not at full capacity, the sunlight upon the water sparkles like diamonds; the surrounding scenery is still awesome to behold.

Back to exploring, heading up CR 264 the scenery is quaint and pretty; a great view of the Abajo Mountains in the distance.  It's about three miles before you reach a junction; CR 110 to the left and CR 264 continuing up to the right.

We decided to go left first; CR 110 only goes for about 3.5 miles before reaching the entrance to the Manti-La Sal National Forest and FR 084.  Now I have to let you know that we did this adventure in April and while it didn't look like much snow was still in the mountains, don't be fooled.  We were only able to travel four miles before we met up with a snow packed section of road we had no intention of trying to travel upon.  Here's a hint for visitors to the area; April snow, May mud, June dry...general rule of thumb for traveling up in the Abajo Mountains, and arguing with the employees at the Welcome Centers will not make the snow or mud conditions go away.  Don't be rude, you'll only look a fool.

Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Trails are aplenty up in the forest.

Alrighty then, backtracking those four miles to the junction, it's back onto Bulldog Road which, of course, parallels Bulldog Canyon.  The ATV trail for the canyon can be accessed/exited back at Radio Hill Road North, but it can also be accessed/exited at the end of CR 264.  It does end, in two miles, at a fenced area which has a "No Trespassing, Land Leased for Hunting" sign on the post.  The ATV trail is somewhere off to the right hand side of the road, but we didn't go looking for it; it's rated moderate for ATVs though.

Hunting season for wild turkeys begins at the end of April, so these guys were not sticking around to find out if we were "friend or foe".

While looking at the rocky scenery, we noticed a darker area in the cliffs and wondered if it was a cave; caves sometimes have ruins in them.  We were able to get a closer view with the zoom lens on my camera, but the darker area turned out simply to be desert varnish.  It was on the ledges nearby that we finally spotted the cliff dwelling; this was at 1.5 miles up from the junction, looking westward.
Desert Varnish

Cliff Dwelling off Bulldog Road (CR 264)

The temperatures seem to have finally made a decision about getting warmer and staying there; the snow is melted, the mud is drying.  During the summer months, we're hoping to get back this way again and explore FR 084 deeper into the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Mary Cokenour